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Kamarck, Edward (ed.) / Arts in society: the arts of activism

Kamarck, Edward L.
Editorial comment: on winning friends and influencing people PDF (1.7 MB)

It is impossible for a contemporary journal of the arts to get itself well
by everybody. No matter how determinedly open its editorial outlook, the
journal is
bound to run afoul of one or another of the disparate orthodoxies with which
culture is reft - particularly when it probes the passionately controversial
whether of aesthetic or political consequence. It has been our disconcerting
that the fact of exploration in itself is often deemed prima facie evidence
unique commitment to a particular encampment.
Over the years we have in varying degrees, depending upon the focus of a
issue, sensed ourselves to be embraced or repulsed by a variety of groups.
The issue
on The Geography and Psychology of Urban Cultural Centers elicited huzzahs
certain academicians, from architects and city planners, and from managing
of performing arts centers; our general readership seemed rather indifferent;
but a few of the aggressively alienated let us know of their scorn for this
identification with "establishment culture." On the other hand,
the Happenings
and Intermedia issue brought in new subscriptions from those communities
on both
coasts where interest in icon-breaking is strong; from elsewhere in America
came primly written notes of icy politeness informing us that the sender
no longer
had an interest in subscribing. Happily, in this instance the former far
outweighed the
latter, but it is nevertheless saddening to realize that many friends of
art are
prone to deliberately circumscribe the range of their curiosities.
Winning friends cannot, of course, be a prime objective of ARTS IN SOCIETY,
although like any institution we are not averse to applause, the more widespread
better. Influencing people is another matter. Our sponsorship by a university
presupposes a responsibility to educate, to inform, to try to broaden general
understanding of the dynamism of contemporary culture. All of these must
the charge to look objectively into the crooks and crannies of the American
experience, and particularly into those areas where the action is.
In a time of widespread social upheaval some of the action is likely as not
to be
found in rather disreputable places and to be associated with rebellious
even violent commitments.
Whatever our moral or political stance, we must view the art churned up by
powerful passions of these times as being of vital significance - if not
on aesthetic
grounds (and by the admission of its creators much of the so-called "committed"
art is deliberately provocative and shocking), then most certainly for its
impact on the
prevailing cultural ethos. Those who turn away in repugnance are likely to
little understanding of the emerging new America of the seventies.
This issue on The Arts of Activism, which Morgan Gibson has guest-edited,
was not
designed to win friends from any of the orthodoxies - and most obviously
not those
of polite culture. It is hoped, however, that all readers will find its influence
be salutary, because it seeks to further greater understanding of the
revolutionary condition of the culture of our time.
Edward L. Kamarck

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